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Suspect in the Laguna Woods church shooting David Chou, 68, of Las Vegas is shown in this police booking photo released by the Orange County Sheriff's Department on May 16 2022. Picture: HANDOUT via REUTERS
Suspect in the Laguna Woods church shooting David Chou, 68, of Las Vegas is shown in this police booking photo released by the Orange County Sheriff's Department on May 16 2022. Picture: HANDOUT via REUTERS

Sacramento/New Mexico — The man accused of killing a doctor and wounding five people in a shooting at a Taiwanese-American church banquet in California methodically planned the attack because he was upset over Chinese-Taiwanese tension, authorities said.

David Chou, 68, chained the doors and placed glue in the locks at Geneva Presbyterian Church in Laguna Woods, southeast of Los Angeles, before opening fire inside the church on Sunday, Orange County sheriff Don Barnes said.

Up to 40 people, members of a Taiwanese Presbyterian congregation from nearby Irvine, California, were attending a luncheon honouring a former local pastor when the shooting began, police said.

Chou, described by the sheriff as a US citizen and Las Vegas resident born in China, drove to southern California on Saturday and went to the church on Sunday morning, authorities said. After the shooting, investigators found three bags placed around the church building with various items, including additional ammunition and four Molotov cocktail-like devices.

The FBI said it was opening a hate crimes investigation in the case.

The sheriff’s department issued a statement saying investigators had “determined that the suspect was upset about political tensions involving China and Taiwan” but did not elaborate.

In Chou’s car, Barnes said, investigators found notes written in Mandarin that indicated an obsession with Taiwan and a dislike of Taiwanese people.

China views Taiwan, a democratically governed island, as its “sacred” territory and has never renounced the possible use of force to bring it under Beijing’s control. Taiwan rejects Beijing’s sovereignty claims, saying that it is already independent and that only its 23-million people can decide their future.

All of the victims were of Asian heritage. Their names have not been released.

The gun violence in California came on the same day as a separate mass shooting at a grocery store in a predominantly black neighbourhood of Buffalo, New York, that left 10 people dead and three others wounded. Most of the victims of that attack, which the FBI has labelled an act of racially motivated violent extremism, were black.

Among those killed in the Laguna Woods church shooting was a physician Dr John Cheng, 52, who was shot when he tackled the gunman, Barnes said, crediting Cheng’s act of bravery with preventing more fatalities.

Subduing Chou gave other congregants, including a pastor, the opportunity to overpower him and tie his legs with an electrical cord, detaining him until police arrived and broke through the chains on the doors.

Chou, who remains in custody, was believed to be acting alone, Barnes said. He bought two guns used in the attack legally in Las Vegas, where he rented a room in a shared home. He is likely to be charged with one count of murder, five counts of attempted murder and four counts of unlawful possession of explosives, Orange County district attorney Todd Spitzer said.

The wounded, four men ranging in age from 66 to 92 and an 86-year-old woman, were taken to area hospitals for treatment, the sheriff’s department said.

The shooting unfolded during a lunch reception the Taiwanese Presbyterian Church congregation had arranged for a former pastor who had left US and relocated in Taiwan but returned for a visit, Tom Cramer, leader of the Presbytery of Los Ranchos and a former pastor at the Geneva Presbyterian Church, said.

Reuters

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